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Worried: TPS Said My Son is not Doing as Great as I Thought


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So, my son needs to be outsourced next year.  He will be doing some of his classes at the local co-op and I had hoped to have him do the rest of his classes at TPS (The Potters School).  He will be doing all 9th grade work.

 

However,  TPS just said he places into the 7th grade English class (English I).  He has always done great on our grammar tests, and did great with the WTMA writing classes he took.  TPS just said his writing has some severe organizational and topic problems.

 

I am worried that my assessment of how he was doing is no longer accurate.  Are the TPS classes that rigorous? Are they that strict - that they allow for so little variation and that is why he placed so low?

 

It completely makes me rethink everything and I am starting to panic - if my son who I thought was doing above average is not doing below average according to The Potter's School - what do I do with this information?

 

Should I find another school?  Place him in English I?  How bad are his skills, really?  

 

Freaking out - a little!

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I agree. Yes, I've heard the TPS English comp classes are super tough. But, if you could post the sample, it would help.

 

But, in any case don't worry. You have lots of time and kids that age can make tremendous progress in one year. I went to a very rigorous college from a so-so school (better in math/science than English) and I was able to totally pull my writing together the first semester.

 

No worrying allowed, okay?

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I am running out the door (still worrying) ... so I am cutting and pasting his paper for TPS.  The assignment was ... where would you like to live if money is not an issue.  Thanks

 

Lockheed Martin:  California

 

A formation of F-35 Lightning II fighter jets explodes overhead. From the makers of most fighter jets, the F-35 Lightning is produced by Lockheed Martin’s many factories across the country. Lockheed does not consist of only factories, in fact, business and design offices stretch across the globe.  As for the employers, they can send the workers to any location they choose.

Since I was little, I have had a passion for mechanics and construction. Around the age of 10, I really developed a love for flying and aerospace. I have always wanted to live in the sky; obviously, that is impossible. The closest to actually living in the sky is being a pilot:  they spend the majority of their time in the sky. My dream job is to be a test pilot for the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Lockheed’s test sites include Air Force bases country-wide, but the one I want to live by is based in California, on Edwards Air Force Base. If I can’t settle in the sky, I would enjoy living in California. This is the reason why I picked Edwards Air Force Base as a prime test site. Other than having a nice Air Force Base, California has an abundance of attractions, from Redwood forests to Alcatraz Prison. If I was to live in California, I would want a house away from any major attractions. It would be located on a hill with an ocean view and a private beach. Ideally, the house would be a few minutes’ drive to the Lockheed site.

The house itself would not be large in size, and it would be organized in a way to save space. The structure would be two stories, plus a basement, and would have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The abode would be situated on a property covering 10-20 acres, supporting a herd of cattle and a few horses. There would be a clubhouse for me and my friends to hang out in on the weekends and holidays, with a secret passage connecting the two buildings. The house entrance would be in the library, hidden behind a false bookshelf, and club entrance would be in a fake refrigerator in the basement. Also in the basement would be a safe room, with gun racks and safes laid in the wall. Underground, in the main house, there would be a garage for the cars, and a passage would emerge onto a private road, like the Batcave.

In fantasy, living in California while working for Lockheed Martin as a test pilot would be my dream life. In reality, the house probably will not happen, but California and testing jets have a possibility of occurring. As a wise man once said, if you believe in yourself and work hard, your dreams won’t be dreams, they’ll be reality.

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Well, I can certainly see why they would say he has topic and organization problems. To start with the essay is really about his dream job, not where he would want to live. He didn't write to the prompt. From there it bounces around with disorganized paragraphs with topics that seem to come out of nowhere. I tutor essay writing online, and I read hundreds of essay (at various levels) each month. Your ds's essay would make me cringe. It is hard to even know where to start helping him fix it because it has so many issues.

 

That said, it does look like the majority of Jr. High writing assignments I see. I don't think you have to panic that he is below level, but if this is an accurate reflection of what he can do, he may not be ready for TPS 9th grade English. I have always heard (but never used it) that it is challenging. How about trying a different provider for 9th grade? You need someone that will start at a bit lower level and bring him up to high school work. He is only going into 9th grade. He has plenty of time to get this, but TPS may not be the place.

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Did he submit his first draft or did he read and edit? If TPS asked him to write to that prompt for them to evaluate, then TPS probably has rubrics to grade with.

 

Well, I can certainly see why they would say he has topic and organization problems. To start with the essay is really about his dream job, not where he would want to live. He didn't write to the prompt.

I agree.

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My son (11.6) just got accepted to Journey Through Narnia class, which is equivalent to English 1 or seventh grade English. He did the placement test. He did fine for his grammar part, 40 questions. :-( He wrote one paragraph about where he would like to live. He wrote about Kyoto, Japan. Then he wrote an essay about someone who influenced him for good or for bad. He wrote about our dog. Mrs. Richards gave him very high scores and praised him much. His paragraph was only less than 8 sentences long and his essay was three very short paragraphs with the first being introduction and the next two focusing on two sub topics with supporting details. He didn't write a conclusion paragraph because the requirement says two to three paragraphs. Since his placement test was only for 7th graders, the instructor might be not asking much of him. :-)

Your ds's writing has very good, varied sentences. The main thing I noticed right away is the organization of the essay. The first two paragraphs didn't mention the main topic of the essay clearly. It makes me wonder when he would get on topic. It seems somewhat scattered. Also "if money is not an issue" is not mentioned explicitly. Instructors would like to see the exact key words they request students to write about. The house itself paragraph is deviating away from "where you want to live". In a five-paragraph essay, the first paragraph is the most important, like a general map, a big picture, to guide your reader.

Just my two cents. I hope I don't sound too harsh.

Ds13.8 signed up for FOEW class at WHA. It is a writing class for 8th grade. He is not required to take placement test. Maybe you can consider that class for your son. Though ds13.8 is doing subjects above grade level, I would like him to delay a year so that he will be mature and ready to take PSEO in 11th grade in 2019.

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I agree that it is not a cohesive piece of writing. He meanders. It is hard to follow. It is not what I accept from my middle schoolers, and my kids are at a different level entering into high school.

 

That said, I don't think it is so bad that you need to panic. Nor do I think it has so many problems that it is hard to say where the first step needs to be taken to fix it. When I read it, I see some strengths. He tries to create a hook to engage the reader. He tries to insert interesting examples. What he really lacks, though, is a thesis that directs the entire composition and creates the logical order in which to present his thoughts.

 

I would find a class that focuses on the structure of writing. He needs to work on the skeletal structure. If he were my child, I would focus on having him generate a thesis statement and an outline for every assignment. I would review the outline with him and discuss whether or not he is staying on topic and proving his thesis. I would have him write multiple drafts with revising and editing with me in between so that he understands exactly where he is succeeding and failing before working on it again.

 

I think with concentrated attention on his weaknesses that he can be on target by the end of the year.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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I see the same problems others see (organizationally).  But I think he has a lovely "voice" and a good vocabulary.  DD was much like that and HATED writing to a formula.  She was more concerned with getting her imagination down on paper.  She actually is an avid fiction writer and writes often in her spare time, but again, can't stand formal essays.

 

I would definitely be careful how you approach him so as not to make him feel negative about writing in general. I explained to DD that the kind of writing for high school and college is based on a formula, and has to be written X-Y-Z without any variations.  I explained it is a different kind of writing than what she enjoys, and just something she has to do.

 

Good luck!

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I think your son is able to write engaging sentences, but I agree that the piece is disorganized. There is no logical progression from one thought to another. The topic is unclear. Although the part about the jets is interesting, it doesn't relate well to the rest of the piece. Given that he was supposed to write about where he would live, the first paragraph shouldn't be about jets. He also seemed to have trouble prioritizing; I get the idea that living in California near Lockheed Martin is the important part, but then a relatively large amount of time is spent describing a particular house.

 

I can see why TPS said this not high school-level writing, but I don't think it necessitates being put in a 7th-grade class. Your son just needs to learn how to structure a piece of writing. I think that could be addressed in a 9th-grade level class. I would thank TPS for their assessment and decline their offer.

 

Btw, my dd14 is a very strong writer. My ds13 struggles quite a bit and is still working on writing strong paragraphs. Your son is not hopelessly behind, and as long as you address his weaknesses, there is no cause for alarm.

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I so appreciate the feedback!

 

I talked to the teacher and she also wonderfully explained what was missing. He has never been taught a 5 paragraph essay!

 

I have no doubt he could quickly pick up how to write with more structure if he understands the "formula."

 

Any recommendations for a 5 paragraph essay tutor for the next month?

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Overpeople, I don't agree that the solution is to teach him a 5 paragraph formula. 5 paragraph essays following a formula can be just as painful to read as the original piece.

 

What he really needs to understand is the basic structure of writing--thesis, topic sentences, supporting details, transitions.

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Hi Overpeople, 

 

I would agree that I would not accept this writing even from my middle schoolers.  I'm sorry!  ((hugs))

 

HOWEVER, i will say that rather than place your son in a 7th grade class, all he needs is a good writing lesson in the basic structure of writing....Thesis, supporting details, 3 paragraphis minimum with supporting details, a closing, which restates the thesis and then you add to that correct grammar, and variety in sentence structure, and you have a cohesive piece of writing.  I would personally start another thread, asking for a writing book that will teach the basic elements of writing.

 

I have not used it, but Jensen's Format Writing comes to mind.

 

BUT I still would not pay 600.00 and spend a whole year on it!  However, looking at his writing, I do not think that you can teach it in one month.  I think first, he needs to understand planning.  Then he needs to understand the structure.  You have to take time teaching him about good thesis statements, and how to refer back to them, and it takes practice. He has to learn about them piece by piece, then put it all together.  Then, he must practice writing different kinds of essays and getting feedback... Though I don't think he needs an entire year to learn this, I also do not think you can teach it in one month.   Depending on your writing skills and his level of motivation I would say one semester....

Edited by Calming Tea
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BUT I still would not pay 600.00 and spend a whole year on it!  However, looking at his writing, I do not think that you can teach it in one month.  I think first, he needs to understand planning.  Then he needs to understand the structure.  You have to take time teaching him about good thesis statements, and how to refer back to them, and it takes practice. He has to learn about them piece by piece, then put it all together.  Then, he must practice writing different kinds of essays and getting feedback... Though I don't think he needs an entire year to learn this, I also do not think you can teach it in one month.   Depending on your writing skills and his level of motivation I would say one semester....

 

 

AND, moreover, teaching structure definitely falls into high school writing so I would count the work towards his high school credit, just in case you're wondering.  But I do think you need a plan and curriculum to get from A to B so that it gets done and done thoroughly.  Structure and support is just so important to his future writing in college and well worth the time.  

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You may want to consider Writing With a Thesis by Skwire and Skwire.  A semester seems about right with appropriate writing assignments along the way.  My DS said "it made sense" and helped him focus his writing more, on similar issues to yours, and I noticed a clear improvement.  I'm sure there are other approaches, but that helped us.

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My younger daugher took the paragraph writing workshop through Home2Teach.  The class lasts 6 weeks and is $85.  My DD is a strong creative writer but needed some structure to move into academic writing.  She didn't especially like the class but it did help her organize her writing and is comparatively inexpensive.

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I should probably expand on my last post. While I don't think you need to panic, I do think he needs concentrated remediation. I don't think a 5 wk quick fix is going to work. If he made it through 8th grade, including another online writing course, and this is what he is producing, he lacks fundamental structural skills and to master them will require instruction and practice to master and consistently implement.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Overpeople,

 

This is my experience with curriculum....you really have to see it in person....(Gee maybe i should take my own advice on that for math)...

 

anyway, I would pick a few affordable curricula which are recommended here....buy three or four, keep the box, pick the one that looks most logical to you, send the rest back to amazon, and get started.  

 

Also FWIW, I have found all the writing books recommended for adults, did not work for us at all.  Books recommended by homeschoolers written for schools and homeschools, have always worked the best....so I would avoid choosing writing books based on amazon reviews. :o)

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I so appreciate the feedback!

 

I talked to the teacher and she also wonderfully explained what was missing. He has never been taught a 5 paragraph essay!

 

I have no doubt he could quickly pick up how to write with more structure if he understands the "formula."

 

Any recommendations for a 5 paragraph essay tutor for the next month?

 

This is what I was going to suggest.  My middle schoolers wrote plenty of 5 para. essays this year.  It gives them the tools to organize properly.  I don't have any suggestions for teaching it.  I just did it.  We started with outlines of it every time.  Once you master the outline of the essay, you have almost written the whole thing. We just did it over and over this year.  My 8th grader has it down.  My soon to be 7th grader has a couple of years to keep working on it with me.

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Overpeople - I just wanted to encourage you not to be too down on yourself or your son. It seems like you've had a bunch of negative feedback. Some kids can learn a TON of organization in a short time once they are ready and exposed. There is a big difference between your son's writing if he's never been taught the organizational components compared to if he has. Sure it might sound like younger writing, but the potential is great to rapidly improve.

 

I'd never want to hear the feedback on how my oldest son's writing sounded. I know he wrote like a third grader starting high school, but he had the language and grammar to build upon (but he has some significant learning disabilities though also gifted). Through several Brave Writer courses, they helped him with both the style of writing as well as organization such that now his writing is college ready (and scored very highly by outside teachers).

 

There are lots of ways to teach writing and there is certainly not one best way. Evaluate what he needs and what fits best in you lifestyle/budget and go from there.

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Everyone,

 

I am so thankful for this forum - the compassion, wisdom, constructive criticism and advice.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot teach him.  He is 14 and very resistive to all things taught by mom.  Whatever we do, it needs to be outsourced.  Sadly, everything is outsourced for next year - he wants to stay home, but not do school with Mom.

 

Earlier today, I was shocked to learn he is writing so poorly.  After 2 years of an online class, with very high reviews from his teachers, it is not what I expected to hear.  I assumed he was doing well.  I appreciate everyone pointing out that he is lacking some fundamental skills.  I see that.  I know he has not been taught, and certainly has not practice writing to a thesis.

 

I am very thankful that the TPS teacher took the time to explain to me what was missing from his writing sample.  And that so many people here, did the same thing.  Of course, I am frustrated that this is where we are right now.  Especially since I thought we were in a very different place with his writing.  Ugh!!

 

I would love personal recommendations of online classes that would teach the skills he is missing.  I wish we could work together on it, but it is not going to happen right now.   I want a class that really pushes him to learn quickly, and well, and encourages practice, practice and more practice.

 

Again, I thank everyone for their responses.  I have calmed down, but am still bummed.   :mellow:

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It's not a complete English credit, but I have found the Brave Writer classes fantastic for meeting kids wherever they are in their writing and moving them along very well.

 

For an English credit, we usually often do a couple of 4-6 week Brave Writer classes, a Center for Lit online literature class (discussion only, not the writing portion) as well as a few other things on our own. Next year, we'll do more on our own, but still do Brave Writer classes.

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I would love personal recommendations of online classes that would teach the skills he is missing. I wish we could work together on it, but it is not going to happen right now. I want a class that really pushes him to learn quickly, and well, and encourages practice, practice and more practice.

Does it have to be online? If not you might want to look at a SAT or ACT writing/essay test prep class for a summer intensive.

 

Bravewriter has an online SAT/ACT Essay Class which is 4 weeks long that might fit your requirements.

http://www.bravewriter.com/online-classes/sat-act-essay-class

"Topics addressed in class

How do you discover what the essay question is really asking?

 

How do you segue from one point to the next?

 

How do you analyze a text critically?

 

How do you craft a powerful thesis?

 

What can be done about revising if you have twenty-five minutes?

 

How do you plan an essay effectively and quickly?"

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I would love personal recommendations of online classes that would teach the skills he is missing. I wish we could work together on it, but it is not going to happen right now. I want a class that really pushes him to learn quickly, and well, and encourages practice, practice and more practice.

 

Personally, I don't recommend making speed a priority when learning. Pacing is important, but courses and instructors should emphasize content, not speed. Practice is very important for writing. You can't practice well or enough when your emphasis is on speed.

 

Why not just have him start with TPS in the course in which they placed him?

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^^ yeah, Earlier I had said that you should not take the TPS course.  But that was assuming you would save a lot of money teaching him yourself.

 

If he liked the feedback, and is willing to take the 7th grade course, and the syllabus looks strong, then I guess I don't see why he can't take it.  Any online course is going to be between 500 and 800 for the year, or more even.  

 

But I wonder if you can find another course that could count for high school credit.  Maybe there is an old fashioned course like what we did in high school where they do teach the writing the first 8 weeks of 9th grade, and then they practice it all year.  Maybe look around at Landry ...

 

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Another option is Write at Home. They give good writing instruction and do two revisions of each thing they write with tons of feedback for each, giving the students a lot of opportunity to learn and improve. It is not fast paced and you would need a separate literature class. I skipped this option for years thinking it was too light and in the end tried it for dd's last year (after she completed college comp). Her writing really benefitted from her writing coach's editing and walking her through the revisions. This is their high school comp 1 class. I wish I had focused less on rigor and let dd work at a slower pace and really nail down the fundamentals sooner. I would expect that after the first year of Composition with WAH you could switch to any other on-level high school class if you wanted to get all of English into one course, but I think their freshman course would work just fine for him to remediate his weaknesses. I think you are right in believing he just needs instruction. As others have pointed out, there is a lot that is good in his writing. 

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Earlier today, I was shocked to learn he is writing so poorly.  After 2 years of an online class, with very high reviews from his teachers, it is not what I expected to hear.  I assumed he was doing well.  

 

I would absolutely pass this information on to your previous online class, both teacher and administrator.  It doesn't have to be in a mean way, feedback is important.

 

ETA, it is possible the classes had different goals or timelines for getting to this point.  But they should still know the outcome that your student was not considered on level for a different class.

Edited by goldberry
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Update:

 

I have had 2 wonderful conversations with teachers at TPS.  

 

The summary is - TPS teaches and is looking for a style of writing my son has not learned.  They respect the skills he has learned - they are simply different from that which TPS is teaching.    The teacher with whom I spoke complemented the way my son had been taught - saying they did a very good job of teaching him voice and style - something that can be hard to learn.  So none of us need to worry - these classes are doing a super job!

 

I do not feel comfortable saying one is better than the other - they are just 2 different approaches.  I believe the classical approach and the classes my son has taken have been very valuable.  He has learned to love to writing, to use word variation, to write creatively, and most importantly enjoy the process.  I have no complaints with what he has learned or how he was taught.

 

It was largely a misunderstanding on my behalf in regards to his skills.  It was as if he was asked to take a Chemistry test after studying Biology.  One is not better than the other, they are just different.  In the end, I believe both approaches work and have great value.  No complaints here, in fact, I have nothing but positive things to say about WTMA.  I would say my interactions with both schools have been fabulous and I would not hesitate to use either TPS or WTMA (WTMA has been great for our family).  Their classes were great for my son and he absolutely loved the teachers.  We had to look for something different due to our scheduling constraints.

 

I now need to to decide which path forward is best for our family and this very challenging child. 

Edited by overpeople
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If he really wants to be a test pilot, try to squeeze in a technical writing class/course in high school. Let's just say my former engineering technical writing instructor really felt like giving most of us Ds because it was that bad, and none in my cohort were ESLs.

 

ETA:

For someone who can write but have not learned the structure, I don't see how the skill cannot be learned in a summer intensive. Also never submit a draft even if the teacher calls it a draft. My kid's teacher expects drafts to have been proofread and edited before submissions.

 

ETA:

I was assuming if this is the first draft and he submitted without proofreading not realizing that it would be graded as a placement test. My kids had submitted substandard (half baked effort) busy work that don't affect grades.

Edited by Arcadia
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Update:

 

I have had 2 wonderful conversations with teachers at TPS.  

 

The summary is - TPS teaches and is looking for a style of writing my son has not learned.  They respect the skills he has learned - they are simply different from that which TPS is teaching.    The teacher with whom I spoke complemented the way my son had been taught - saying they did a very good job of teaching him voice and style - something that can be hard to learn.  So none of us need to worry - these classes are doing a super job!

 

I do not feel comfortable saying one is better than the other - they are just 2 different approaches.  I believe the classical approach and the classes my son has taken have been very valuable.  He has learned to love to writing, to use word variation, to write creatively, and most importantly enjoy the process.  I have no complaints with what he has learned or how he was taught.

 

It was largely a misunderstanding on my behalf in regards to his skills.  It was as if he was asked to take a Chemistry test after studying Biology.  One is not better than the other, they are just different.  In the end, I believe both approaches work and have great value.  No complaints here, in fact, I have nothing but positive things to say about WTMA.  I would say my interactions with both schools have been fabulous and I would not hesitate to use either TPS or WTMA (WTMA has been great for our family).  Their classes were great for my son and he absolutely loved the teachers.  We had to look for something different due to our scheduling constraints.

 

I now need to to decide which path forward is best for our family and this very challenging child. 

 

I strongly disagree with your assessment of what is going on.  Creating a thesis/overarching controlling idea/topic sentence and staying on topic is not confined to a certain approach. Your ds is lacking the essence of proper writing structure.  A child who knows **how to write** can transfer those skills across multiple different styles and still maintain a cohesive composition. It is absolutely not a chemistry to biology analogy.   ANY (and EVERY) writing class should address those basic skills b/c they are core to all good writing.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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ETA:

For someone who can write but have not learned the structure, I don't see how the skill cannot be learned in a summer intensive. Also never submit a draft even if the teacher calls it a draft. My kid's teacher expects drafts to have been proofread and edited before submissions.

 

This is why I disagree with overpeople's assessment of what is happening.  I find it incredibly hard to believe that in 2 yrs of online classes that he was not taught such a basic writing skill as creating a topic and staying on topic, especially when you are talking about him having been in upper middle school at the time.

 

(ETA: Or if not taught explicitly bc it was assumed that a middle school student had already mastered such a basic skill, then at least had it addressed in his graded compositions. ETA2: And if it was never addressed, then I am speechless.)

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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 I think the thread should stay on topic:  "What should Overpeople do?"

Should she :

A. try to squeeze this in this summer

B Sign up for the Class TPS is graciously recommending 

C. Look around for another, high-school level online class, which includes writing instruction

 

I really vote for B or C because this young man really doesn't know how to write cohesively, and that is not something that can be taught in one month.  

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Did he start with a defined topic and an outline when he wrote this? Did he read it carefully and revise before submitting? Is this typical of his work? I think that an immature writer having an off day could write something more disorganized than usual.

 

I have gone through all 3 levels of WWS with one child at home, not with a class. I will say that though he did not have a lot of trouble transitioning to writing with a thesis, I did have to explicitly teach him about thesis after finishing WWS, making sure it is well-defined and appropriately narrowed to the length of of the composition. It isn't that the idea of focusing on a topic isn't there in WWS, but that it is more implicit. However, I don't think that it is really a different kind of writing than would be expected from the prompt you were given. The prompt required exposition on a topic, not advanced rhetorical technique.

 

While I haven't tried the Bravewriter classes, I have been tempted. I think I would skip the seventh grade class and look for something like Bravewriter that might be more individualized, along with a writing tutor (maybe online) for the year to guide the student through assignments written across the curriculum. Whatever I used, I would look for small classes that have many shorter assignments, with frequent, timely, specific feedback. I would take a look at something to start during the summer as well.

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I would second home2 teach if he can place in the paragraph class.Op could do this for a year and go back to TOPS if she still wanted to at a higher level. I had a DD his age that wrote similarily and she really matured in this course. I believe the daily and (even more frequent if he can submit his work by early to mid morning) feedback and revisions were helpful. Almost all of the students take this class twice, so it is about 12 weeks of instruction. My DD did take a few courses after this from http://www.home2teach.com/classes/ , then placed into her comp class at the CC. She recieved the only A in the class.

 

If his writing sample places him in a lower class, I might do it if it, depending on the class. If he placed in the earliest class called Foundations,there would be a year of classes before he reached the age 14 plus classes. That could be ok, as the earliest classes do provide a basic foundation, but the feedback isn't extensive or even all that helpful for someone aged 14...more of a "good job" kind of thing. You could easily combine this with IEW B and work on a five paragraph essay at the same time. Hth

Edited by Silver Brook
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Because criticism can be hard to hear at any age, I want to add that your son has the distinct advantage of having his own voice AND having a lot to say. Learning organization will be easier, imo, than trying to come up with more words. It can be challenging for boys (in particular) to write enough to begin to organize. 

 

With my own son, we didn't work on papers as much as we should have throughout high school. But content was never an issue for him. When he finally focused on his topic and learned basic organization, his papers came easily because, like your son, he already had the words.  In fact, his college application essays won him a full tuition scholarship and honors program invite, and he earned As on each of his essays in his dual enrollment College Composition course he took as a high school senior.

 

So don't be too hard on yourself. It's good to hear this feedback now and begin to remedy it. Again, I hope that you're able to encourage your son about parts of his writing and that he doesn't get down on himself when hearing where he needs improvement. It can be a tough balance trying to encourage!

 

 

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This is why I disagree with overpeople's assessment of what is happening.  I find it incredibly hard to believe that in 2 yrs of online classes that he was not taught such a basic writing skill as creating a topic and staying on topic, especially when you are talking about him having been in upper middle school at the time.

 

(ETA: Or if not taught explicitly bc it was assumed that a middle school student had already mastered such a basic skill, then at least had it addressed in his graded compositions. ETA2: And if it was never addressed, then I am speechless.)

 

I don't want to misrepresent SWB, but I think WWS is more about outlining and writing from outlines without explicit instruction in topic sentences or thesis statements.  I think I've read that she sees developing thesis statements happening at the high school level.  I could be wrong about that.  

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From what I can see, WWS covers expository writing rather than writing with a thesis. WWS1 contains a lot of step-by-step hand holding, using published sources for content, and not a lot of original content. I could see that a student who has completed this level would still struggle with writing from a prompt from scratch.

 

WWS1 taught my dd how to write good biographical summaries/descriptions/narratives based on information collected from other sources and then organized into an outline and from there into paragraphs with quotations and footnotes. But she won't learn how to add an introduction and conclusion until WWS2. And no thesis statements yet.

Edited by lovelearnandlive
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From what I can see, WWS covers expository writing rather than writing with a thesis. WWS1 contains a lot of step-by-step hand holding, using published sources for content, and not a lot of original content. I could see that a student who has completed this level would still struggle with writing from a prompt from scratch.

 

WWS1 taught my dd how to write good biographical summaries/descriptions/narratives based on information collected from other sources and then organized into an outline and from there into paragraphs with quotations and footnotes. But she won't learn how to add an introduction and conclusion until WWS2. And no thesis statements yet.

But wouldn't the purpose of the outline be to keep your topic organized and on theme?

 

I have never seen WWS, but I can't imagine an outline not organizing ideas logically.

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But wouldn't the purpose of the outline be to keep your topic organized and on theme?

 

I have never seen WWS, but I can't imagine an outline not organizing ideas logically.

Yes, absolutely.

 

The program teaches to organize narratives chronologically, and to organize descriptions by writing about one aspect at a time. Etc. For most of the year though, they are given an outline to write from. It's not until near the end of the year that they learn to take notes and write their own outline from their notes, and then write from their own outline. And only the last assignment of the year has them doing the whole process without detailed step-by-step instructions. So the students are still pretty green on independently going through the process without a lot of direction.

 

Personally I do plan to have my dd learn how to write a thesis paper in middle school... but I definitely appreciate the instruction she gets with WWS as well.

 

ETA: I do understand your concern. I would hope that at some point one would see more of a transfer of skills to general assignments. But it does feel like after a year of WWS we have really only been exposed to a small part of the whole, and that point is still in the future.

Edited by lovelearnandlive
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You may want to consider Writing With a Thesis by Skwire and Skwire.  A semester seems about right with appropriate writing assignments along the way.  My DS said "it made sense" and helped him focus his writing more, on similar issues to yours, and I noticed a clear improvement.  I'm sure there are other approaches, but that helped us.

 

I haven't made it through the whole thread yet, but I just wanted to comment on this suggestion - I think Writing With a Thesis is a fantastic book, but I don't think it's the right move for the OP's son at this point.  WWaT is for a kid who can put together a well-structured essay, it does focus very explicitly on creating a good thesis in the first chapter, but it assumes that the basic ability to structure an essay - intro, supporting points, conclusions, all focused on the subject - is in place.  To my mind, it's Step 2 of essay writing, not Step 1.  For Step 1, we used Lively Art of Writing with the workbook created & posted by Quark.  It does a great job covering how to structure an essay.  For work on thinking through what you want to say, I really like BW's Kidswrite Intermediate class, followed by the Expository Essay class.  *Then* jump in with WWaT.  But get the basic essay structure down first.  That would be my suggestion, at least.

 

ETA: Now I've made it through the thread.  Since you are looking for online classes, I suggest BW. - the combo of KI and EE would be just right for him, I think. Each class is 6 weeks long.

 

Also, I think the pps who characterize WWS as not teaching thesis-driven writing are absolutely correct.  It doesn't, at least in the first two levels (the ones I'm familiar with) and it doesn't teach intros & conclusions until well into Level 2.   It's the parts-to-whole thing:  WWS spends a lot of time teaching a pre-high school kid how to do all the different pieces, chunks, of different kinds of writing that they will eventually put together and use in their thesis-driven, persuasive, original high school writing.  But it doesn't ask or expect thesis-driven writing with original ideas from pre-high school students.   So it's not terribly surprising that he wouldn't know how to do that yet if his writing instruction has been based on WWS.

 

This approach didn't work for me or my student, which is why we jumped ship from WWS and focused on learning to write a structured paper about a single topic (thesis) using LAoW, and then moved on to exploring all the different types of thesis-driven writing using WWaT.  BW is definitely not parts-to-whole the way WWS is, but it also doesn't spend a ton of time working on the structure of writing - but it does teach students how to come up with, and narrow their focus on, interesting topics and to maintain their voice and their own writing style.  It focuses more on the thinking behind coming up with a good thesis to write about, and then how to write about it with verve and interest.

Edited by Chrysalis Academy
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